Sunday 23rd September, 8.00 am
“I say, I’m so awfully sorry,” a female voice said.
Gerry tried to focus on the voice but his vision was blurred as he lay there, stunned.
“Daddy’s going to be so angry with me,” the voice said.
As Gerry lifted himself onto one elbow, the image behind the voice became gradually clearer. In her mid to late twenties, she was an attractive young lady with serene blue eyes, soft skin and brunette curls that fell beneath her cloche hat. That’s the next thing Gerry noticed - her attire. The pale green frock, stocking legs and golf shoes gave her not only an elegant, classy look but also reminded Gerry of a 1920s flapper.
She looked down at him, lying helpless on the damp, late September grass.
“I – I didn’t see you,” she said. “You seemed to appear from nowhere. I did shout but it was too late.”
Gerry winced as he probed the bump that was forming, a reminder of where her ball had hit.
“It’s fine,” he said. “Can you help me up?” He extended his arm towards her.
“Oh, of course. I’m so sorry, how rude of me,” she replied, helping Gerry to his feet. “Daddy is going to be so angry,” she said, once again.
“Why?” he asked. “I’m Gerry, by the way.”
Gerry stared at her as she replied. She seemed familiar to him but he couldn’t place her.
“Eloise. Eloise Ponsonby,” she replied. “Daddy doesn’t like it when I play. That’s why I started early, before any of the gentlemen arrived. The other gentlemen, I mean.”
“Oookay,” Gerry said, bemused with her concern. “So why are you dressed like that? Is it a fancy dress competition?”
“I beg your pardon?” she replied, looking Gerry up and down. “One might just say the same about you.” Disappointed by his comment, she turned her head to one side, then added, “Mr. Bumble Bee.”
“Bumble bee?” he said sharply. “I think my knock was a little more than a sting.”
“Of course but you do look rather bright,” she said with a smile.
Gerry looked down at his own attire and was shocked by what he saw. A two-tone pair of Oxfords, yellow and black argyle socks, checked plus-fours and, to top it off, a yellow and black striped pullover vest. His brand new tailor-made golf clubs had also been replaced and, lying at his feet, there was now a canvas bag containing a set of well-used hickory clubs.
“What the heck?” he said.
The numbers, 3 and 10. He remembered the numbers but that’s all and now he was here, not only dressed as a nineteen twenties golfer but it seemed he really was in the 1920s.
Gerry couldn’t believe it. He loved this era; the roaring twenties with its flappers and gangsters and the Great Depression with bootlegging and money laundering. He had watched so many films and read book after book on the subject, often dreaming he was born in that era.
“Come on,” Eloise said, disturbing his thoughts. “Let’s go and sort that bump of yours out.”
Gerry picked up the clubs to follow her and, as she headed in the direction of the clubhouse, he felt apprehensive as to what else might occur.
As they approached the building, Gerry recognised it immediately and was surprised how little it had changed, whereas the surrounding landscape had altered substantially. The putting green was gone, to be replaced with a stone staircase that rose up from an ornate fountain. These lead up to what should have been the patio area, where Gerry enjoyed a pint or three after a hard day of golfing. This area was now, or once was, a gravel driveway and was now filled with an assortment of vintage cars that were parked in front of the grand structure itself.
Kelsey Hall golf club was a large three-storey structure, constructed from brick and flint-rock. It had two wings that sat adjacent to the core, which itself boasted six ornate columns leading to the main entrance.
“Welcome to my home,” Eloise said, leading Gerry past the columns and through the great oak door.
“Your home?” Gerry questioned. “Don’t you mean golf club?”
“I was born here, Bumble. You are such a strange creature,” she replied. “Surely you know Daddy only invites his most influential friends to play here. You won’t tell him what happened, promise you won’t.”
“My lips are sealed,” he said.
“Oh, Bumble, you are a dear.” She kissed Gerry on the cheek and he hadn’t noticed it before but her aroma gave him a sense of déjà vu. The smell and warmth of cigar tobacco infused with lush flowers filled his nasal senses, reminding Gerry of sunshine and good times.
“Your perfume. What is it?” he asked. “I’ve smelt it before.”
“It’s Molinard Habantia. Daddy brought it back from one of his trips abroad.”
“Havana, to be precise, my darling.”
“Daddy, you’re up! Let me introduce Bumble. I mean, Gerry.”
The man before them stood tall with certitude and was dressed in an ivory Brooks Brothers suit, blue silk pocket square and a highly-polished pair of brown and white wingtips, so it was immediately obvious to Gerry that Eloise’s Daddy was a man of wealth and distinction. Eloise was certainly her father’s daughter; the resemblance was uncanny, especially his same blue eyes, high cheek bones and prominent chin.
He took hold of Gerry’s hand with a firm grip and shook it vigorously.
“We’ve met before,” he said.
“You have?” Eloise asked.
Have we, Gerry thought.
“MacNeil, if I’m not mistaken. PD introduced us, briefly.”
PD, Gerry thought. There’s only one PD he knew and that was his boss, Peter Dann, but surely not.
“Peter, Mr. Ponsonby?” Gerry questioned, “The rotund yorkshireman?”
“That’s the fellow but please call me Georgie,” he replied. “Now, tell me how you two came to meet?”
“I was ummmm, gol……,” Eloise started to say, causing Gerry to interrupt.
“Your daughter came to my rescue, sir.”
“Oh, pray tell.”
“I was searching for my lost ball amongst the trees,” he lied. “Something startled me and, getting up too quickly, I clumsily knocked my head on a low branch. Eloise was passing and invited me back to dress the wound.”
“Is that right?” he said, raising his eyebrows at his daughter.
Eloise looked down at her feet, trying in vain to hide her lie.
“Yes, Daddy,” she said, “that’s what happened.”
Georgie could read his daughter like a book but he let it go.
“Very well,” he said. “Now I must dash, as I have an important meeting to attend.”
With that, Georgie brushed past them. Pausing briefly, he laid his hand on Gerry’s shoulder. “Nice story, Bumble,” he whispered, “and nice to meet you again, MacNeil. I’m sure my daughter will take good care of you,” he said, before disappearing out the door. “Oh, and Eloise. Next time, put your clubs away,” he added.
Gerry sat at the large Victorian table, which was easily able to seat ten staff, the pine now worn after years of service. Laying his hand on the wood, he felt its texture and imagined the many lavish meals that would have been prepared over the years, the smell of freshly-baked bread fuelling his imagination. He gazed around the warm kitchen, taking in its features, many of which still remained Victorian in style.
Across the table and set back in a recess, stood a blackened cast-iron range. Still hot from the baking, the rising heat gently stirred the copper cooking utensils that hung on chain and hook from the high ceiling. To its left, set against the wall, stood a dresser, every shelf filled with an assortment of pots and pans that had seen many a year of hard labour.
The scullery was next, which may have once been lit by a solitary candle but was now ablaze with light from an overhead lamp, illuminating a figure that was bent over the sink. Running the cold water over a cloth, in the hope it would help, Eloise felt guilty for what had happened earlier, though she was certain no-one was there when the ball struck.
“I won’t keep you a moment, Bumble,” she told him.
“It’s fine. Take your time. I’m just admiring your house. Has it been in your family long?”
“Yes. My grandfather, Sir George Ponsonby, acquired it in the mid 1800s.”
“I bet it could tell a tale or two,” he said. “What the butler saw and all that.”
“Old Archie? He wouldn’t see much at all, bless him. He’s been in Daddy’s employ since long before I was born.”
“No, I mean….,” Gerry started to say but thought better of it. He didn’t want to have to explain the images of twentieth century postcards to the lady of the house.
Eloise placed the damp cloth on Gerry’s head, the coolness easing the bump almost immediately.
“Now just hold that there, while I arrange some refreshments,” she said, before disappearing from the kitchen, leaving Gerry alone. Or so he thought.
“Hello, little fella,” he said, to a mouse that caught his attention as it scurried across the kitchen floor. The mouse stopped dead in its tracks and looked up at Gerry, as if listening to him.
“What is all this?” Gerry asked the mouse. “Do you know why I am here? Why? Why am I here, my little friend?”
Before the mouse, who in fact reminded Gerry of his neighbour, Sid, moved on, a bell started to chime. The mouse looked from Gerry to the bell, before continuing on its journey. Gerry watched with interest, as it squeezed behind the dresser, stopping briefly to give him one last glance.
Gerry hadn’t noticed the servant bells when he was surveying the room. They were in a row of five and fixed to the wall just above the dumb waiter, each labelled with brass plaques, indicating their source. The one labelled ‘Front Door’ chimed once again.
“Who were you talking to?” Eloise asked, when she returned. She handed Gerry a bottle of ginger beer.
“Thanks, just what the doctor ordered,” he said. “Oh, I was just muttering to myself.”
“Maybe that bump is worse than it looks,” she jokingly replied, before removing the cloth and studying the injury.
“Looks like you have eager visitors,” Gerry said, pointing to the bell that now had an impatient ring to it.
“That’s okay. Archie will answer it.”
“You sure he’ll be able to see who it is?” Gerry asked.
“Oh Bumble, you are a card. Come on then. Let’s go find out for ourselves, shall we?”
Barely managing to take a gulp of the ginger beer, he placed the bottle awkwardly on the table, before being pulled with a rush from the kitchen, up a spiral stairwell and back into the entrance hall.
Eloise still holding his hand which, in truth, Gerry liked, they almost came to an abrupt halt. Well, they would have done, had Gerry not been shoeless. Having removed his Oxfords earlier, he started to slide. The freshly-polished dark oak floorboards held no grip or friction on his stocking feet and he careered past Eloise, who had no choice but to release her grip and watch, as Gerry slid on towards the door and the unsuspecting butler.
“Archie! Look out!” Eloise hollered but, practically blind, and obviously deaf too, as well as unaware of what was happening behind him, Archie continued to dutifully open the door.
Gerry, now trying his best to stay upright, sped on towards the gaping hole and crashed full force into the surprised visitor. They both toppled backwards, landing in a heap on the dusty ground.
“Bumble, are you okay?” Eloise asked, as she helped Gerry to his feet for the second time that day. “David, nice of you to drop in,” she added.
Getting to his feet, David dusted himself down, before eyeing Gerry with a disdainful look.
“Literally, wouldn’t you say?” he replied.
Gerry took an instant dislike to this tall, well-built, blonde-haired, man but put his hand out to shake nonetheless.
“Sorry,” he said, “I couldn’t stop in time. It’s the floor. It’s a bit slippery.”
David reluctantly offered his own hand in return.
“That’s how it’s supposed to be in a well-run household, isn’t it?” he said. “That’s what staff are paid to do.”
Gerry couldn’t be sure but he could have sworn David added ‘Dummkoff’ under his breath. Never trust a man with a weak grip, or eyes that are too close together, Gerry’s father had once told him. David had both and Gerry knew from that moment that this man was definitely not to be trusted.
David was the first to lead the way back into the house, completely ignoring Archie as he did so. Eloise held back, grabbing Gerry by the arm.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “About David, I mean. His manners are not one of his best qualities.”
“Does he have any?” Gerry replied.
Eloise let out a giggle.
“Who is he, anyway?” Gerry asked.
“David Steinberg. He’s Daddy’s business partner. He’s more than likely here to see him.”
Gerry nodded at Archie, as they both followed David back inside. He had the same feeling about the butler as he did earlier about Eloise. He seemed familiar but he couldn’t place him. Gerry looked back over his shoulder for a second glimpse. As Archie was heading out the door, he smiled, gave Gerry a sneaky wink and closed the door behind him.
To help with the guilt of two accidents in the same morning, Eloise invited Gerry to stay for dinner and for the night. She instructed that the guest bedroom and a pair of shoes be made ready. Gerry accepted the offer for two reasons: one, he wanted to get to know Eloise better and, two, where else was he going to go? His house probably wouldn’t have been built yet.